Posted: January 18, 2006 in The Roper Files

The Roper Files 2006The ever-spreading development of urban sprawl is a scary thing, at least for some of us. Almost anything that is unusual or different has been bulldozed and replaced with something else.

Maybe something a little bit more aesthetically eye-pleasing, like condos for example. But there’s a part of America that’s disappearing fast.

It’s subtle, like removing a color from a photograph with PhotoShop but nonetheless under the surface of modern life. Certain landmarks from the landscape as I remember America just aren’t there anymore. The miniature golf courses, the drive-in theater screens, giant fiberglass dinosaurs and other over-sized things that I guess more easily-entertained people would drive from miles around to see are all gone and replaced with drugstores, banks, Borders,Wal-Mart,and McDonalds.

I hated the bank when I was a kid. I would throw the worst hissy-fits, throwing myself down on the floor and totally spazz out on my poor Mom. “Let me out of here! Why are we still here? I want to go NOW!” I still feel the same way when I have to go withdraw even more money from my alleged savings account just to pay some utility bill. When I moved into the duplex I live in currently seven years ago, there were two grocery stores within walking distance. They’re both drugstores now.

If I need bread, I’ve got to drive miles out of my way now. The two nearest gas stations to me since I moved here have closed as well, just to add to the inconveniences. When I was about ten, LIFE Magazine printed a picture of a man riding a horse across the parking lot of a local K-Mart on Cherry Lane right here in Fort Worth underneath some caption about the Paving Over of America or something like that. Whoever took that photo should return to Fort Worth sometime soon. They wouldn’t believe it today.

When I was a teenager and someone got hold of a gun, you had to go out of town to shoot it of course. Back then that was about a 20 minute drive.

Now you better have a full tank of gas and several hours to find that middle of nowhere to pull over and fire a gun.

Ever heard of Granbury, Texas? Well, don’t feel bad, most folk haven’t. But almost everthing between Fort Worth and there has been paved. I lived for three years in Parker County between 1986 and ’89.

Back then you could walk around the front yard naked with a whiskey bottle in one hand and firing a .357 Magnum into the air at three in the morning ( not that I would ever be inclined to do such an uncivilized thing of course, huh huh… ) and no one would call the sheriff because the nearest neighbor was a mile away.

Living GREEN ACRES and living like a king simultaneously. I remember coming home one day and finding horses that had wandered onto my lot and rounding them up in my Chevy pick-up truck, hanging out the window and “yee-hawing” them down our driveway and watching them as they galloped through the pasture across the road into the crimson sunset. Only in Texas; such a wonderful colorful image! Or the time my room-mate and I found the bloated corpse of a puma floating face-down in the swimming pool, lassoing it, and pulling it down the road (and down-wind) attached to the back of his van by a long rope. Knuckle-head entertainment to be sure, but it was more fun than all the nothing I’ve done lately.

The last time I drove out to Parker County, I wanted to pull over and cry. Roads cut right through the rolling pastures I remember so well. Houses built side-by-side, right up against the road. God, it’s only been twenty years and yet…everything I described in the previous paragraph seems like yesterday. That area has fallen victim to the same gentrifcation that has ruined shopping these days.

Everything is so bland and look-alike, and totally forgettable.

You’ve really got to look and look hard to find anything weird these days. It’s sad that the weirdest thing kids can do these days is picking up the new Marilyn Manson CD at the neighborhood Borders. Only visiting E-bay, amazon or other such Internet entities brings back a faint tremor of the feeling I could get just by visiting the drugstore when I was a kid. The magazine rack was my Internet back then, the mens’ adventure magazines, Famous Monsters of FilmLand, EERIE, CREEPY, MAD, CRACKED, Hot Rod Cartoons with that wonderful Big Daddy Roth artwork as well as all his imitators.

The revolving comics stand that stood in every drugstore and grocery store back then stocked with Classics Illustrated,SpiderMan,AquaMan,Fantastic Four, Batman, Superman, Archie, Dennis the Menace and those lame-ass Harvey comics. And there was also the revolving paperback book rack, something else that’s disappeared; stocked with detective novels with lurid covers, UFO books and the Ballantine MAD paperbacks.

Mom had to pull me away from there when she was through shopping; only the television could keep me amused and out of her hair that well. All this stuff is gone now, history. Going to the drugstore now makes me want to throw the same fits I threw in the bank as a child. Nowdays you have to go to E-bay to even get a glimmer of how much fun the drugstore could be, nay, should be back then. Seeing magazines, comics, records etc. I used to own going for Sotheby’s prices isn’t that much fun for me, so I don’t do it much.

And E-bay, just like the current excuse for drugstores doesn’t have a soda fountain.

Remember soda fountains? Those delightfully, sinfully greasy cheeseburgers. Rich chocolate malts made with REAL ice cream. French fries made from real potatos, (or potatoes, to you Professor Quayle) fried in vegetable oil and not in that syntho-oil everyone uses now that has me on the “throne” 30 minutes later praying forgiveness for whatever horrible, terrible sin I committed, to deserve…well, you know.

They’ve even managed to screw up cereal since I was a kid. Take Trix and Cocoa Puffs for example, two of the most delightfully weird cereals ever made; they don’t taste the same as I remember them tasting. And that’s probably because they’re either not using real sugar, or they’ve added a hundred other chemicals during their processing. When I was in elementary school, they would show us movies showing us the virtues of cyclamates (or some such shit) An Opie Taylor-clone kid in cover-alls walks into a store, pulls a bottle of a sugar-free soda off the shelf, opens it and drinks it.

He smiles at the camera, rubs his stomach and informs us (the lucky audience) he can’t tell the difference. Then they find out cyclamates cause cancer in lab rats and replaced it with something else, which late got replaced with something else when they found out it too caused cancer in lab rats and so on and so on… Here in Texas, the Dr.Pepper bottling plant in Dublin, Texas has created a new consumer base because they still use real sugar. In other words, their Dr. Pepper taste the way Dr. Pepper did when we were kids. Company representatives are quick to dismiss this, but I suspect there’s more to it than they want to admit. Maybe I’m not as unique as I think. Maybe the harder they deny it, the more the market grows. Somebody’s buying this stuff by the case and driving this market. Is nostalgia a disease? If so, then I’ve got a raging case of it! Dont ask me where I’m going with this.I’m just a high-school graduate, blue-collar white trash Web blogger from Texas for God’s sake. What the Hell do I know? What the Hell am I doing? Being an adult sucks! I want my childhood back! AUGH! (transmission ends here)


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